Fabric Prewash or Not?

Fabric Pre-wash or Not?

By Mary Covey

Should I prewash my fabric or not? Nothing can stir up more heated debates with quilters than this subject. Every quilter has an opinion on the subject. And guess what? They are all correct. The truth is there is no right or wrong answer to the question. It is all up to the individual quilter. Each choice comes with some pros and cons that you will have to consider when deciding which you will do.

Those in favor of prewashing their fabric enjoy the idea that this will maintain the fabrics  colorfastness. Prewashing also preshrinks the fabric. These have certainly been valid concerns in the past. The fabric processing and dying procedures have seen many advancements over the past 10-15 years. So these two concerns are somewhat less valid. The biggest advantage to prewashing is in the pliability and feel of the fabric. Fabrics with heavy sizing and painted designs are difficult to quilt both by hand and machine.  A quick prewash can help eliminate some future problems.

On the other side of the debate are quilters who prefer not to prewash. They enjoy the crisp feel of the fabric fresh from the store. Many of these quilters believe the fabric is easier to cut and stitch with because the sizing helps the fabric retain its shape. The decision may also be based on the desire to have an old fashioned look for the quilt when it is completed. When the fabric and batting are not prewashed before quilting, then the finished quilt is washed, they all shrink together giving the quilt that crinkled old fashioned look.

As a machine quilter, I believe in both points of view. I love the look that a quilt gets when nothing has been prewashed until the quilt is finished. The quilt appears to have been around forever and has a soft, soothing feel.  But not prewashing fabric can cause lots of tension issues and skipped stitches because of heavy sizing or painted designs on the fabric.  When fabric is prewashed it is much easier to quilt both by hand and machine, giving you a nice tight stitch.

Ultimately the choice is yours. Pick the look you want and get busy quilting.

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